Millions know Raffi for his work as a children’s entertainer whose string of gold and platinum-selling recordings in North America includes his classic “Baby Beluga” song with its beloved melody and lyrics. But a very interesting piece of Raffi’s story is not as well known: Raffi’s pioneering commitment to honouring his young fans changed the way we came to view music made for children. Founding his own record label, Troubadour, then folk musician Raffi set out on a path that rescued children’s recordings from bargain bin pricing and sub-par production values.
In 1976, with help from Ken Whiteley and Daniel Lanois, Raffi spent the time and money it took to ensure that his recordings met the highest standards. Raffi convinced retailers that parents would pay regular price for quality music for their children, and he was right. Teachers, parents and kids took an immediate liking to the kind of songwriting and recording Raffi offered, perhaps because of the respect that was obvious in his material and the playful delivery that always clicked with the kids. Soon, the media were knocking at Raffi’s door.
Because of his belief that children should not be exposed to too much television viewing and that they should not be directly marketed to, during his thirty-year career as a superstar of kid’s music Raffi refused all offers for commercial television shows and commercial endorsements. Even recently, when approached by a Hollywood production company to do a film based on “Baby Beluga,” he declined when told that the film’s marketing would include direct advertising to children. This is only one of a series of lucrative deals Raffi and Troubadour have declined over the years.