Another New Children’s Album from Raffi!
For nearly four decades, pioneering troubadour Raffi has been the world's best-selling and most influential children's entertainer, delighting successive generations of kids—and their parents—with his playful, exuberant personality and his irresistibly infectious songs. Besides producing numerous gold and platinum albums and performing countless sold-out concerts, Raffi has also emerged as a respected advocate on behalf of children, lending his voice, insight and experience to a number of crucial issues.
Owl Singalong is the follow up to Raffi's acclaimed 2014 release Love Bug, which was his first set of children's songs in twelve years. The new album picks up where its predecessor left off, embodying all of the musical and personal qualities that have long established Raffi as a beloved and trusted icon for young listeners.
The 16-song Owl Singalong—whose title song was inspired by both the owls the artist would hear nightly outside his home on Salt Spring Island, Canada, and by his grand-niece Lucie's enthusiasm for her stuffed-toy owl—continues Raffi's commitment to entertain his young audiences in ways that are educational, uplifting, and—most important—fun.
Raffi's abiding dedication to his fans is reflected in such exuberant, infectious new tunes as "The More We Sing Together," "See the Moon," "Dog on the Bus" and the bubbly title track. Elsewhere on the album, Raffi sings in Spanish on "Somos El Barco" and in French on "Dans La Forêt Lointaine." He also pays tribute to the late folk-music icon Pete Seeger with a heartfelt reading of the folk standard "Garden Song," a David Mallett composition popularized by Seeger, and a rollicking spoken-word rendition of "Abiyoyo," a beloved African folk tale which Seeger helped to introduce to English-speaking audiences.
One of Owl Singalong's musical and thematic centerpieces is the reggae-flavored "Green Dream," a joyous, hopeful anthem that continues Raffi's career-long environmental advocacy.
"'Green Dream' is an important song for me," says the artist, who first sang the praises of solar and wind power on "Big Beautiful Planet," which was featured on his 1982 album Rise and Shine. "We live with the menace of global climate change, which is the greatest threat to future generations, and the kids who are alive today are gonna face the brunt of that challenge. At the same time, we're seeing a rapid shift from fossil fuels to green energy technologies. My dream is a green dream for all of the world's children, and I hope that's something that all families want."
As with Love Bug, Raffi recorded the majority of Owl Singalong in his own living room, accompanied by an extended family of talented musicians and singers. The album's musical cast includes the artist's niece Kristin Cavoukian and vocalist Soraya Bowen, a former childhood Raffi fan who contacted the artist online, and whose vocal talents so impressed him that he invited her to perform on the album. The songs' arrangements incorporate a variety of styles from ragtime to reggae, and wide range of instrumental textures.
Owl Singalong also marks Raffi's first use of ukulele, an instrument with which Raffi recently embraced after buying a hand-crafted model from a local luthier, and which he plays on several of the album's songs and which is featured on the album-closer "Abiyoyo."
"It's a tenor ukulele," Raffi explains. "I picked it up and fell in love with it immediately, and it was so much fun to play that I made it my rhythm instrument on this album. 'See the Moon,' 'The Lion Pokey' and 'Every Day' all started with uke rhythms, and 'Abiyoyo' is the story of a boy and his uke."
Although Love Bug marked the end of an extended break between children's albums, Raffi remained remarkably active and productive during that hiatus. For several years, he has devoted much of his time and energy to his vision of Child Honouring, an original holistic philosophy for creating a humane and sustainable world by addressing the universal needs of children and a unifying principle for restoring human and natural communities.
The philosophy's principles were outlined in the 2006 book Child Honouring: How to Turn This World Around, a groundbreaking anthology which Raffi co-edited. The Child Honouring principle has been widely circulated in child development, education, ecological economics and environmental health circles, and Raffi has given talks on the subject in settings as diverse as the New York Academy of Medicine, Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the World Bank, and Harvard University.
In 2013, after learning about the online extortion that led to the suicide of Vancouver teenager Amanda Todd, Raffi was inspired to write his widely acclaimed book Lightweb/Darkweb: Three Reasons To Reform Social Media Before it Re-Forms Us. The book addresses the myriad concerns posed by the internet in relation to young children's developmental needs.
"For me, to be a children's advocate in this day and age, and not comment on social media, I wouldn't be doing my job properly," Raffi states, adding, "I'm a tech enthusiast myself, and I've kept up with the times, in terms of how I record and the freedom that the online and digital worlds give me. But with all tech events, the challenge is to keep your humanity in the forefront."
Raffi's commitment to treating his young fans with respect is an enduring thread that runs through his long career. Born in Cairo, Egypt into an artistically inclined family of Armenian descent, Raffi Cavoukian moved with his family to Canada at the age of ten. By the mid-'70s, he was a young singer-songwriter performing in the folk clubs and coffeehouses of his adopted hometown of Toronto, when he was invited to perform some sets for children in a classroom setting. Raffi's uncanny ability to connect with young listeners led to him launching his own label, Troubadour Music, and recording his first children's album,Singable Songs for the Very Young, in 1976 with borrowed funds in Daniel Lanois' small basement recording studio.
After being picked up for distribution by A&M, Singable Songs struck a responsive chord with children, parents and educators, setting in motion a career that would soon set records and break down boundaries, rescuing children's music from bargain-bin pricing and sub-par production values. Within a few months, Raffi was selling out theater-sized venues and winning widespread acclaim as an entirely new kind of children's performer.
A series of best-selling albums and concert DVDs—including such popular Gold and Platinum-selling titles as Baby Beluga,Rise and Shine, Raffi's Christmas Album, One Light One Sun, Everything Grows, Evergreen Everblue, Bananaphone, Raffi Radio and the all-star Country Goes Raffi, which found such noted country acts as Alison Krauss, Marty Stuart and Asleep at the Wheel performing Raffi songs—followed, selling over 15 million copies in the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, his beautifully illustrated Songs to Read book series has sold more than three million copies.
As a longstanding advocate for a child's right to live free of commercial exploitation, Raffi has refused all commercial endorsement offers, and he has never directly advertised or marketed his music to children. He turned down a proposal to make a film based on his beloved classic "Baby Beluga" because the film and various related products would be marketed directly to children. He also passed on an opportunity to perform a concert at Madison Square Garden, because he felt that the venue would be too large for him to connect with his young audience.
In 1999, Raffi published The Life of A Children's Troubadour, a startlingly forthright autobiography that encompassed the artist's personal and professional experiences as well as the development of his philosophy. While remaining a passionate advocate for children, he expanded his creative horizons with a pair of acclaimed albums of adult-oriented songs, 2006'sResisto Dancing and 2009's Communion. In 2010, after many years of reflection and advocacy, Raffi founded the Centre for Child Honouring on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.
A recipient of the Order of Canada and the United Nations’ Earth Achievement Award, Raffi also holds four honorary degrees. He is associated with many NGOs, including the Darwin Project Council, the Center for Partnership Studies, the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, and the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development.
Now, as millions of former kids who grew up with his songs—whom the artist has dubbed "Beluga grads"—sing those songs to their own children, Raffi is thoroughly enjoying his return to recording and live performance.
"When I do concerts now, I say 'Hi, moms and dads,' and I get a call back from the crowd," he says. "Then I say 'Hello, boys and girls,' and I get a call back from the crowd. And then I say 'Hello, Beluga grads,' and a big roar goes up. Much of my audience now is the Beluga grads who've grown up and are now experiencing the music through their childhood memories and through their own children.
"I'm enjoying making music as much as I ever have," Raffi asserts, adding, "I already have the next album in my mind, and I think it may surprise people. I feel like I've got a lot of music in me now, and I'm really feeling the urge to stay busy and continue making music. Music is what I do for joy, and joy is something that I want in every day of my life, so I intend to continue doing this as much as I can."