Volume 92, Issue 34

Wednesday, November 4, 1998

millions of bad feelings


Raffi's wisdom spans generations

Gazette file photo
"ONE MORE TIME! DOWN BY...THE BAY." Childhood hero Raffi is scheduled to visit the McKellar Room today at a new time of 1 p.m.

By Christina Vardanis

Gazette Staff

Most professionals who choose to devote their lives to children, boast a series of short-forms following their last name which are supposed to quantify them as possessing a devout understanding of infants and their nature. In the case of child-performer Raffi Cavoukian, the situation was a little different.

"[Understanding children] was a cosmic gift to me," Raffi explains. "I can't trace it to anything else."

The moment took place in a kindergarten classroom as he performed to the children. He had a sudden epiphany in which each one was an individual being, not just a group of the same pre-adult prototype. He spent the next 20 years performing, composing and devoting his life to children and understanding their course of development.

Thirteen albums, three videos and 19 books were the product of his efforts, as well as a journey of self discovery which led him to produce his latest effort – an autobiographical novel for adults, entitled Raffi: The Life of a Children's Troubadour.

"My journey was coincident with learning about children and how they grow," Raffi says. "The more I learned about children and the factors which shape their young life, the more I asked questions of my own young life. In other words, how do we become the adults who we are?"

This question became especially important to Raffi in 1995, when he faced the tragedy of having both his parents pass away within hours of each other. The traumatic event acted as a catalyst for Raffi to tell his story.

"When my parents died it was such a sudden event in my life, I was changed immediately and I knew at that moment I had to write this book," he starts. "I knew their stories had to be told and that I had come to the end of an era, therefore the beginning of a new one. That's the psychic context for writing the book.

"For me there was a great deal of catharsis in the process of giving an account of the past," he continues. "It was emotionally demanding to retrieve these memories and make sense of them in a new way." However, Raffi recognizes the necessity of addressing painful issues to aid in the recovery process. "One makes peace with the past even more than one already thinks one has."

While the book spends a great deal of time delving into Raffi's past, a great emphasis is also placed on teaching his reader the insights he has experienced involving children. His role goes far beyond teaching kids the ways of Baby Beluga or the robin in the rain, as he incorporates a child's development into his own life philosophy.

"They are intrinsically endowed with brilliance," Raffi says of the children he surrounds himself with. "They are magical beings who came into this world with innate creative abilities which are the most dazzling on display on this planet. The emergence of the young human brain is an amazing process we watch, support, awe and love if we are in our right faculties."

Raffi also maintains these innate qualities can carry well on into adulthood.

"It's up to every person to ensure they make the effort to reclaim their voice, if it indeed gets lost," he says and offers his own outlook as an example.

"Like children who work hard to make sense of life, I too still work very hard to make sense of this rapidly changing world. My curiosity and wonder are intact and I still dance with the great mystery of creation on a daily basis," he tells.

Part of Raffi's quest for a society which appreciates a child's gift and potential is ensuring the earth is healthy enough to support their growth. Like everything else, his interest in environmental activism has spawned from his heart.

"The most astounding things are happening in nature everyday. It's the orgasmic universe and we are a part of it. We are kin. Isn't that marvelous? That is our grandeur, not the hoax of a competitive hoarding society of consumerism."

For children of the mid-'70s, Raffi has been as much a part of childhood as Sesame Street and author Robert Munch. Now, he is there once again to guide us towards a healthy future, fueled by inner peace.

Raffi makes an appearance at 1 p.m. today in the McKellar Room to talk about his new novel. A book signing is to follow the discussion.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998