I’m a “Beluga Grad” as Raffi called me — a person in my generation who grew up with the “Baby Beluga” album (although I’m more partial to “Down by the Bay and “Shake My Sillies Out”). We’d put Raffi records on before we danced around or as we were being tucked into bed at night. My sister now had Raffi CD’s and tapes that she listens to in the car with her children. Earlier today it was pretty surreal when I was able to call Raffi up to chat about his latest song, “Letter to a Nation” that honours the words of Jack Layton.
Jack Layton, leader of the NDP and the official opposition in Canadian Parliament, passed away this summer after a hard-fought battle with cancer. During the days that followed, Canadians gathered in public places to leave notes, flowers, light candles, and crack open a can of Orange Crush. His last letter to Canadians moved our nation. The words resonated with many, despite their political orientation, and now they live on in song.
Singer-songwriter, author, and essayist Raffi Cavoukian (or just Raffi to most of us) has put those words to music, with the blessing of Layton’s wife Olivia Chow. The tune is available for all Canadians (and non Canadians) to download, sing, perform, remix, and remember the important message.
How did it come to be that I could call up Raffi on a rainy Friday afternoon? One day I noticed that @Raffi_BC started following me on Twitter and my eyes lit up. I was able to connect with someone so influential from my childhood thanks to social media. Raffi even has a song called “Tweet Me Right” inspired by the popular social network. We’ve followed each other on Twitter for a few months now and when I asked for the interview, he was very obliging.
Raffi continues to write songs, he keeps up a blog, and does speaking engagements in support of his Child Honouring initiative, “a children-first approach to healing communities and restoring ecosystems.” Raffi was in Calgary during our call as he was giving a talk at Mount Royal University. He said there are resources for youth and adults on the Child Honouring site including songs that can be streamed, downloaded, and shared. You can catch him next on Salt Spring Island (where he is based) on November 26th for an event with Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
Young and old are encouraged to download “Letter to a Nation”, share it, and play it. Sheet music for piano (with guitar chords) is also available along with the lyrics so that everyone can remember Layton’s words to our nation.
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” – Jack Layton.