Diversity is joy for celebrated artist Raffi

Award-winning singer/songwriter Raffi Cavoukian doesn’t play favorites. Well, not with his tunes, anyhow. He refers to them as “fountains of joy” and knows that concertgoers have definite expectations, whether it’s ‘Baby Beluga’ or ‘Bananaphone.’

If you go


  • 1 p.m. April 9
  • Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago



“I get it,” I admit. “I’m ‘Tingalayo’ for life.”

“Well, there you go! That little donkey,” he laughs.

Upon hearing my relayed—and slightly mangled—greeting from my Armenian mother, he cheerfully responds with a barek (hello) of his own. Raffi was Canada-raised by Armenian parents and he’s a big fan of multiculturalism and celebrating differences. “Diversity is joy, really.”

Forty years of touring later, his favorite memories are plentiful.

Raffi’s respect for kids goes beyond Q&A sessions. His initiative, The Centre for Child Honoring, “is a children-first approach to healing communities and restoring ecosystems,” and he believes children’s needs haven’t changed. “Respectful love, shelter and nourishment” are the global basics, as well as “…imaginative play, and room for learning the slow rhythm of seasons.”

The reverence goes both ways; he’s touched to know that his fans have never outgrown their adoration.

“It’s an honor to know that my music still seems to have a place in people’s hearts and their memories. I call them Beluga Grads; I even have a hashtag on Twitter.” (#BelugaGrads, for the uninitiated.)

As for his Chicago show, Raffi strikes upon a brilliant idea.

“Hey, can we get Oprah to the show one of these days? If you invite her, say ‘Raffi will be thrilled.’” I promise to tug on my questionable Chicago-connection strings, which brings a chuckle. “You’re very kind.”

Coming from Raffi, that’s high praise, indeed.

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