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The Trend Continues: Customs at JFK Airport Smashes 11 Instruments Owned by Flutist Boujemaa Razgui

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Dec 31, 2013 05:13 PM EST

Flute virtuoso Boujemaa Razgui had just flown back to New York from Marrakech, Morocco after the holiday when U.S. customs officials at John F. Kennedy Airport asked to see his bag of flutes.

The officials proceeded to remove and smash each one of the 11 handmade flutes, stating that they were agricultural products, Razgui told Norman Lebrecht of ArtsJournal on Tuesday.

"I told them I had these instruments for many years and flew with them in and out," Razgui said to Lebrecht. "There were 11 instruments in all. They told me they were agricultural products and they had to be destroyed. There was nothing I could do."

Razgui made the flutes himself over a span of many years, for specific types of ancient and modern music from different cultures.

Razgui is a Canadian citizen who currently lives in New York with a green card employment permit. He is a regular guest with the Boston Camerata and can be heard on their recording A Mediterranean Christmas.

Lebrecht reports that the incident has sparked outrage among Razgui's musician friends, and one ensemble director told Lebrecht: "I can't think of an uglier, stupider thing for the U.S. government to do than to deprive this man of the tools of his art and a big piece of his livelihood."

Razgui is upset about the loss, understandably so, but unsure of what to do next.

Many musicians have reported problems recently with transporting their instruments via airline. In September, classical guitarist René Izquierdo reported that his custom guitar was broken by Hong Kong Airlines, who had refused to let him carry it onboard and insisted that he check it as baggage.

Lebrecht's "Slipped Disc" reported, too, that U.S. airport security agents broke Alban Gerhardt's cello bow at Washington's Dulles Airport last February. The bow was valued at $20,000. A short while later, Gerhardt realized his cello had also been damaged.

Radio station WQXR recently wrote about musicians whose instruments were broken during airline travel, and featured an audio clip of a discussion among musicians about what can be done about the situation.

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TagsBoujemaa Razgui, Boston Camerata, John F. Kennedy Airport, Norman Lebrecht, ArtsJournal, A Mediterranean Christmas, René Izquierdo, Alban Gerhardt, WQXR