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Stage name of Raffi Cavoukian, an internationally acclaimed family entertainer.

Raffi Cavoukian was born in 1948 in Cairo, Egypt, to parents of Armenian heritage. The family emigrated to Vancouver, BC, Canada, in 1958 and Raffi's father, a well-known portrait photographer going by the trade name of Cavouk, continued his trade successfully at their new home.

Raffi's father also played accordion at the Armenian church that they attended, leading to music playing a strong part in his life. During high school years, Raffi started learning guitar and took inspriration from the popular North American folk musicians at the time (ie. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell).

Raffi attended University of Toronto but dropped out after a couple of years to pursue a full-time career in music. He performed at local bars and clubs around town, usually doing covers or original folk compositions of his own.

In 1974, at the suggestion of his mother-in-law, Raffi turned his musical efforts to children's songs as a way of providing some entertainment to the kids at the pre-school that she ran. Raffi started learning the songs from his wife, Debi Pike, a kindergarten teacher, and began performing renditions of "Baa Baa Black Sheep", "The Wheels on the Bus", and other tunes to many groups of happy children in schools around Toronto.

As a result of a successful run performing for children, Raffi recorded a tape of songs that ended up being requested by more and more schools. This in turn led to Raffi recording the album Singable Songs For The Very Young. The album, which was produced on a budget of $4,000 CDN (which he borrowed from the bank), was an immediate success and began to sell internationally when A&M Records picked it up for distribution.

In 1977, Raffi produced an adult-oriented album (Love Light) but decided that he would focus his attention solely on children's music. Since then, he has produced 11 more albums and 3 concert videos. In 1983, Raffi received the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour bestowed by the Governor General, for his work with children. The year of 1996 saw the 20th anniversary re-release of Singable Songs For the Very Young as part of a box set from Rounder Records.

Along with the albums, Raffi has also produced several books in the Raffi Songs to Read line which is based on his music with Crown Publishing. The Learning with Raffi line started publication in 1997.

In 1989, after taking some time off from recording, Raffi re-emerged as an "eco-troubadour" and started performing children's songs that were focused on ecological education. His 1990 album, Evergreen Everblue, was the beginnining of a new path in educating children about ecological and environmental issues. Raffi has since participated in the Advisory Board of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment in New York, as well as co-chairing the Chicago-based Sponsoring Board of Generation Green, a national children's environmental health advocacy group.

In doing what Pearl Jam could not, Raffi has repeatedly refused to perform in theatres that seat more than 3,000 and charge more than $8.50 per ticket. The shows almost always manage to sell out.

My Experience

I grew up listening to my vinyl copy of The Corner Grocery Store which was released back in 1979. My sisters and I constantly sang along with the album, much to my parents' initial delight and gradual annoyance. No matter how many times we played that album, it always sounded fresh - Raffi was pretty magical when he started into songs like The Corner Grocery Store, Going on a Picnic, and even Pick a Bale O' Cotton (an old song from the slavery days).

One day, when I was 21, I was cleaning out the basement when I came upon a pile of my old vinyls. Sure enough, buried there under my old Cure albums was The Corner Grocery Store. I put on it on the turntable and the magic began all over again.

I compare that to the complete commercial-driven crap that is out there today for my own children and I despair.

One more note...during my DJ days, I used to scratch in samples from my Corner Grocery Store vinyl and the crowds loved it.


Sources

  • Biography from Raffinews.com
  • Biography from Yahoo! Shopping Music
  • Biography from Order of British Columbia (http://www.protocol.gov.bc.ca/protocol/prgs/obc/2001/2001_RCavoukian.htm)

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