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Raffi in 2000
Raffi in 2000
Background information
Birth nameRaffi Cavoukian
Born (1948-07-08) July 8, 1948 (age 73)
Cairo, Egypt
GenresChildren's music
Children's literature
Occupation(s)Musician, author, essayist, lecturer
Instrumentsvocals, guitar, ukulele, cigar box guitar
Websiteraffinews.com raffifoundation.org

Raffi Cavoukian, CM OBC (Armenian: Րաֆֆի, born July 8, 1948), known professionally by the mononym Raffi, is a Canadian singer-lyricist and author of Armenian descent born in Egypt, best known for his children's music. He developed his career as a "global troubadour" to become a music producer, author, entrepreneur, and founder of the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring, a vision for global restoration.

Personal life[edit]

Raffi was born in Cairo, Egypt, to Armenian parents, both of whom had fled Turkey during the Armenian genocide. In 1958 his family emigrated to Canada, eventually settling in Toronto, Ontario. His mother named him after the Armenian novelist Raffi. His father Arto Cavoukian was a well-known portrait photographer with a studio on Bloor Street in Toronto. His older brother Onnig Cavoukian, known as Cavouk, is also a famous portrait photographer. His younger sister is Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's former Information and Privacy Commissioner. His parents died within twelve hours of each other, his mother dying first, of abdominal cancer.[1] He visited Soviet Armenia once in 1972.[2]

In the early 1970s, Raffi frequented a guitar store near Yonge and Wellesley called Millwheel, where he met other developing Canadian musicians such as David Wilcox and John Lacey. He befriended Lacey, a folk guitarist from Oakville, Ontario, who helped Raffi improve his finger picking (John Lacey went on to become a steel guitar player). Raffi continued playing folk guitar in various coffee houses in Toronto and Montréal before hitchhiking to Vancouver in 1972 to find "fame and fortune."

He returned to Toronto after a few years and was invited to sing for a Toronto public school. Despite his own hesitations about singing for kids, he was an immediate success, and thus he began his career entertaining children.

After a seven-year gap in publishing, Raffi released an album, Let's Play, in 2002.[1] He moved to Saltspring Island near Victoria, British Columbia, in 2008.[citation needed] Raffi ran a coffee house at the University of Toronto up until 1980.

Raffi is a member of the Canadian charity Artists Against Racism.[3]


Children's entertainer[edit]

Once called "the most popular children's singer in the English-speaking world,"[4] he is well loved by many children born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s for his popular children's songs. His autobiography, The Life of a Children's Troubadour, documents the first part of his award-winning career. Some of Raffi's best-known children's songs are "Baby Beluga," "Bananaphone," "All I Really Need," and "Down by the Bay."

Most of Raffi's children's albums include small, simple, folk instrumentations featuring Raffi's vocal and guitar work. Early works included contributions from Toronto-area folk musicians, including Ken Whiteley, The Honolulu Heartbreakers, and Bruce Cockburn. Raffi also incorporated many world music sounds into his records, including "Sambalele" (More Singable Songs, 1977) and "Anansi" (The Corner Grocery Store, 1979).

Raffi preferred to play in small intimate settings. In his autobiography he notes that he turned down a very lucrative offer to perform a concert at Madison Square Garden because he thought the venue was too large for him to connect to children. He also wrote that early in his career, he found it difficult to perform for kids under 3 years old because their short attention span was distracting to him and to the rest of the audience. This led to him taking a hiatus from children's performing in the mid 1980s.[citation needed]

In 1989, his album Raffi In Concert With The Rise And Shine Band was listed on the RPM Top 100 Albums chart.[5]

Raffi is currently the president of Troubadour Music Inc., a triple-bottom-line company he founded to produce and promote his work. He released recording for a number of other artists, including Caitlin Hanford and Chris Whiteley.[6]

As of 2017, Raffi continues to perform and appears occasionally across Canada and the United States.


Raffi's recent musical work focuses on social and environmental causes and appeals to the generation who grew up with his children's music ("Beluga Grads") to effect change in the world. He also promotes those causes through his books, academic lectures and as a speaker. In 2007, Raffi wrote, recorded and produced the single "Cool It", a rockabilly "call to action" on global warming with Dr. David Suzuki in the chorus. "Cool It" was the theme song for Dr. Suzuki's recent Canadian tour to promote action on climate change. In February 2016, Raffi released the song "Wave of Democracy" in support of American Senator Bernie Sanders run to be the Democratic nominee for US Presidency.

Child Honouring[edit]

In the 21st century, Raffi has devoted himself to "Child Honouring," his vision for creating a humane and sustainable world by addressing the universal needs of children. The Child Honouring ethic is described as a "vision, an organizing principle, and a way of life—a revolution in values that calls for a profound redesign of every sphere of society."[7] His "Covenant for Honouring Children" outlines the principles of this philosophy.[8]

In 2006, with Dr. Sharna Olfman, he co-edited an anthology, Child Honouring: How to Turn This World Around, which introduces Child Honouring as a philosophy for restoring communities and ecosystems. It contains chapters by Penelope Leach, Fritjof Capra, David Korten, Riane Eisler, Mary Gordon, Graça Machel, Joel Bakan, Matthew Fox, Barbara Kingsolver, Jean-Daniel Ó Donncada, and others. The book's foreword is by the 14th Dalai Lama. The musical album Resisto Dancing: Songs of Compassionate Revolution was released as a tie-in for the book.

In a 2006 speech, Iona Campagnolo, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, referred to Child Honouring as a "vast change in the human paradigm."[9]

Raffi advocates for a child's right to live free of commercial exploitation and he has consistently refused all commercial endorsement offers. Raffi's company has never directly advertised nor marketed to children. In 2005, he sent an open letter to Ted Rogers of Rogers Wireless, urging them to stop marketing cell phones to children.[10] He also turned down a film proposal for "Baby Beluga" because of the nature of the funding, which was based on exploitative advertising and marketing.[11]

Raffi has been hailed for his work as "Canada's all time children's champion."[12]

In October 2006, Raffi was presented with the Fred Rogers Integrity Award by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood at the Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston, for his consistent refusal to use his music in endorsements that market products directly to children.

In 2012, after learning details surrounding the online bullying, exploitation and ultimate suicide of teenager Amanda Todd, Raffi and his Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring co-founded the Red Hood Project with business owner, former Crown prosecutor, community and arts philanthropist and advocate Sandy Garossino and design professional, writer, educator and community activist Mark Busse. Red Hood Project is a movement for consumer protection for children online that launched in November 2012.

In June 2013, Raffi published the book, Lightweb Darkweb: Three Reasons to Reform Social Media Before it Re-forms Us, which examines both the benefits and the dangers present on the internet and in social media.

Awards and memberships[edit]




  • Good Luck Boy (1975)
  • Singable Songs for the Very Young (1976)
  • Adult Entertainment (1977)
  • More Singable Songs (1977)
  • The Corner Grocery Store (1979)
  • Baby Beluga (1980)
  • Rise and Shine (1982)
  • Raffi's Christmas Album (1983)
  • One Light, One Sun (1985)
  • Everything Grows (1987)
  • Raffi in Concert with the Rise and Shine Band (1989)
  • Evergreen Everblue (1990)
  • Raffi on Broadway (1993)
  • Bananaphone (1994)
  • Raffi Radio (1995)
  • The Singable Songs Collection (1996)
  • Raffi's Box of Sunshine (2000)
  • Country Goes Raffi (2001) (tribute album)
  • Let's Play (2002)
  • Where We All Belong (2003)
  • Song for the Dalai Lama (2004) (commemorative CD)
  • Quiet Time (2006) (compilation)
  • Resisto Dancing – Songs of Compassionate Revolution (2006)
  • Animal Songs (2008) (compilation)
  • Songs of Our World (2008) (compilation)
  • Communion (2009)
  • On Hockey Days (2012) (single)
  • Fun Food Songs (2013) (compilation)
  • Love Bug (2014)
  • Owl Singalong (2016)
  • Best Of Raffi (2017) (compilation)
  • Dog on the Floor (2018)


Singable Songs for the Very Young (1976)[edit]
  • "The More We Get Together"
  • "Down By the Bay"
  • "Brush Your Teeth"
  • "Robin in the Rain"
  • "I Wonder If I'm Growing"
  • "Bumping Up and Down"
  • "Willoughby Wallaby Woo"
  • "Spider on the Floor"
  • "Baa Baa Black Sheep"
  • "Peanut Butter Sandwich"
  • "The Sharing Song"
  • "Mr. Sun"
More Singable Songs (1977)[edit]
  • "Six Little Ducks"
  • "You Gotta Sing"
  • "Oh Me, Oh My!"
  • "He'll Be Coming Down the Chimney"
  • "Shake My Sillies Out"
  • "If I Had a Dinosaur"
  • "I've Been Working on the Railroad"
The Corner Grocery Store (1979)[edit]
  • "Knees Up Mother Brown"
  • "Cluck, Cluck, Red Hen"
  • "My Way Home"
  • "Anansi"
  • "The Corner Grocery Store"
  • "Y A Un Rat"/"Sur le Pont d'Avignon"
  • "Going on a Picnic"
  • "Goodnight Irene"
Baby Beluga (1980)[edit]
  • "Baby Beluga"
  • "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"
  • "Thanks a Lot"
  • "All I Really Need"
  • "Morningtown Ride"
Rise and Shine (1982)[edit]
Raffi's Christmas Album (1983)[edit]
  • "Must Be Santa"
  • "Douglas Mountain"
  • "Every Little Wish"
One Light, One Sun (1985)[edit]
  • "Time to Sing"
  • "Apples and Bananas"
  • "Fais Dodo"
  • "Riding in an Airplane"
  • "Like Me and You"
  • "The Bowling Song"
  • "Tingalayo"
  • "De Colores"
  • "One Light, One Sun"
  • "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
Everything Grows (1987)[edit]
  • "Everything Grows"
  • "Bathtime"
  • "Just Like the Sun"
  • "Haru Ga Kita"
  • "Teddy Bear Hug"
  • "Eight Piggies in a Row"
  • "Let's Make Some Noise"
Evergreen Everblue (1990)[edit]
  • "Evergreen Everblue"
  • "Big Beautiful Planet"
  • "Clean Rain"


  • A Young Children's Concert with Raffi (1984)
  • Raffi in Concert with the Rise and Shine Band (1988)
  • Raffi on Broadway (1993)
  • Raffi Renaissance (2007)



  • The Life of a Children's Troubadour (2000)
  • Child Honouring: How to Turn this World Around (2006)
  • Lightweb Darkweb (2013)


  • Raffi Christmas Treasury (1988)
  • Shake My Sillies Out (1988)
  • Tingalayo (1988)
  • Rise and Shine (1995)
  • One Light, One Sun (1995)
  • Like Me and You (1996)
  • Spider on the Floor (1996)
  • Baby Beluga (1997)
  • This Little Light of Mine (1997)
  • Wheels on the Bus (1998)
  • Everything Grows (1998)
  • Down by the Bay (1999)
  • Five Little Ducks (1999)


  1. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin, The New York Times, "Not All Sunshine for Teensy Set's Troubadour." September 18, 2002. Retrieved on May 23, 2019.
  2. ^ Cavoukian, Raffi (7 October 2021). "Raffi have you ever visited Armenia?: once. Soviet Armenia, 1972". Twitter. Archived from the original on 11 November 2021.
  3. ^ http://artistsagainstracism.org/artists/
  4. ^ Lei, Richard, The Washington Post, “Raffi’s Growing Pains." May 31, 1992. Retrieved on May 23, 2019.
  5. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums". RPM Magazine Volume 50, No. 24 October 14, 1989.
  6. ^ David Farrell (19 December 1981). Cavoukian builds on small stable of acts. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 71–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  7. ^ Olfman, S. and Cavoukian, R. eds (2006). "Child Honouring: How to Turn This World Around" (PDF). Retrieved 17 April 2014. IntroductionCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ "A Covenant for Honoring Children" (PDF). Childhonoring.org. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  9. ^ [1] Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Raffi Asks Rogers Not to Market Mobile Phones to Children – Commercial Alert". Commercialalert.org. 30 August 2005. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Raffi on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight: INTERVIEW". YouTube. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  12. ^ Toronto Star, 10 March 1996
  13. ^ "The Governor General of Canada > Find a Recipient". Gg.ca. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  14. ^ "2001 Recipient: Raffi Cavoukian – Vancouver | Order of BC". Orderofbc.gov.bc.ca. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  15. ^ "University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Media releases". Communications.uvic.ca. 13 October 2004. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  16. ^ [2] Archived 26 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Wilfrid Laurier University - University Secretariat - Senate - Honorary Degree Recipients". 19 March 2015. Archived from the original on 19 March 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  18. ^ "CCFC – The Fred Rogers Integrity Award". Commercialfreechildhood.org. 2 February 2005. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  19. ^ "2000 SOCAN AWARDS". Socan.ca. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  20. ^ "Canada's Top 25 Immigrants 2010". Canadian Immigrant. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  21. ^ "Record of Honorary Doctorate Recipients". 2.viu,ca. Retrieved 30 April 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]