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Thread: Ethnic flutes destroyed by JFK customs

  1. #1
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Default Ethnic flutes destroyed by JFK customs

    This just reported on Slipped Disc

    Boujemaa Razgui, a flute virtuoso who lives in New York and works with many US ensembles, was returning to base over the holiday when Customs officials at Kennedy Airport asked to see his instruments. A Canadian citizen, based in New York and with a green card employment permit, Bouzemaa was flying home from Marrakech, Morocco, when his baggage was opened by Customs at JFK.

    Bourjemaa carries a variety of flutes of varying ethnicity, each made by himself over years for specific types of ancient and modern performance. He is a regular guest with the diverse and enterprising Boston Camerata.

    At JFK, the officials removed and smashed each and every one of his instruments. No reason was given. Bouzemaa was both upset and unwilling to risk a confrontation with the US authorities. ‘I told them I had these instruments for many years and flew with them in and out,’ he said. ‘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. The ney flute can be made with bamboo. Is that agricultural?’

    A swell of outrage is rising among his musician friends. One ensemble director tells us: ‘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.’
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Flamme's Avatar
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    When i saw a headline i thought what poor JFK did now? But then i realised its the airport...They roughed him up pretty good i guess since the rise of the terrorism threat...These measures are ''justified'' at least legally
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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Here are the official guidelines for bringing agricultural products into the USA.
    http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/cleari..._prod_inus.xml
    Flamme, this has nothing to do with terrorism, but instead has to do with not introducing new animal and plant pests and diseases to the country.

    Because of the agricultural slant, it appears to be a bit different than the Gibson raids of 2009, 2011.
    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/...42942027859286
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2...ice-department
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member SiegendesLicht's Avatar
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    It's not just at JFK, customs authorities sometimes behave in irrational and crazy ways everywhere - EU, Belarus, Russia... Give them a little bit of power over other people and they start seeing you as a lesser being.
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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Rather puts into perspective Diana Ross's pathetic prima donna tantrum when she was searched at Heathrow in 1999.

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptiveca...lutes-are-gone

    A case stirring intense outrage in the classical music community and starting to gain steam in the mainstream press is getting more mysterious by the day.

    On New Year's Eve, the popular classical music blog Slipped Disc, written by London-based Norman Lebrecht, published a story with an incendiary headline primed to garner fury from musicians and everyday travelers alike: "Outrage at JFK as Customs men smash a musician's instruments." The details Lebrecht recounted were sketchy (and many of the facts then repeated in mainstream press outlets were simply wrong). But it seemed that flutist Boujemaa Razgui had endured a traveler's worst nightmare: his most precious possessions had vanished in transit.

    Razgui is an accomplished artist who performs regularly with wildly diverse colleagues. Playing end-blown Middle Eastern flutes called ney and kawala, he has appeared on tracks by Beyonce and Shakira and for Cirque du Soleil, as well as appearing with early music ensembles including Al Andalus and the Boston Camerata. Razgui makes all of his own flutes, and says that their value lies not so much in the materials, but in the time he invests in crafting and maintaining them, with each flute suited for different kinds of musical styles and circumstances. "I spend something like two years on them," says the musician, who also sings and plays instruments including the violin and oud. "That's what can't be replaced."

    Razgui, a Canadian artist of Moroccan origin who now lives in Brockton, Mass., was traveling from Marrakech to Boston on an exhausting four-part itinerary that began Dec. 21. He left his native Marrakech and flew to Madrid. He then took American Airlines Flight 0095 from Madrid to New York, arriving at about 1 PM on Dec. 22, and finally flew from New York to Boston for the final leg of his trip in the late afternoon. Per U.S. regulations, he tried to pick up his luggage to clear Customs at JFK in the early afternoon of Dec. 22 before catching the last flight in his journey a few hours later. He says that his bag, however, never showed up at the JFK baggage carousel.

    Razgui says that he spent two hours at baggage claim and filed a missing bag report with American. At that point, the musician says, "American told me to go home to Massachusetts as I had planned, and they'd deliver the bag when they found it."

    However, what Razgui received at his home a day after his arrival back in the U.S. was far different than what he expected. He had originally packed some clothes, personal items and canes of professional-grade bamboo for making new flutes. And atop the canes he had packed a special case containing 13 finished instruments that he had made himself — 11 neys and two other Middle Eastern flutes called kawalas.

    Razgui says that when American delivered his luggage on Dec. 23, "The bag was empty, except for a few clothes." He was also informed that the "agricultural materials" in his bag had been seized and destroyed by Customs. And the 13 flutes he had packed on top of the canes were missing altogether.

    A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection asserted in an email exchange with NPR Music yesterday that there were no instruments involved at all in the agency's actions, "just fresh bamboo seized that were found by CBP agriculture specialists." (U.S. law stipulates that such fresh plants are prohibited from entering the country to deter the spread of plant pathogens.) According to the Customs representative, the only materials seized were "fresh green bamboo canes approximately three to four feet long inside of unclaimed baggage." So what happened to those flutes?

    A spokesperson for American Airlines said yesterday evening that the carrier had been unaware of this incident until we contacted the airline, but noted that once baggage is unloaded, responsibility passes over to Customs. Razgui says that he has not tried to contact American Airlines himself since the carrier delivered the bag, as he had believed that Customs had destroyed his instruments along with the bamboo canes.

    After a day spent talking to international press, an anguished Razgui says that now he doesn't know what to make of the whole situation. "Maybe someone took the flutes," he says. "I really don't know what's going on." In the meantime, though, he's been missing gigs — and has borrowed a cheap ney from one of his students.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Yes, I think it was absolutely awful what happen to him. What I hate most is that they told him AFTER the fact! If those people had any decency, they would have warn him beforehand saying, "look, these instruments may carry unwanted plant residue, and we suggest you not bring these aboard or else we will confiscate them," but they did no such thing!! They could have given him options, but they gave him none! It's just as foolish as someone checking bags at the airport and thinking a metal flute is a bomb or something like that! I've never been questioned about then whenever I've brought my flutes along to places though, thankfully, but I've heard other stories. If someone stole those flutes... we have a whole other issue going on then...
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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Mr. Boujemaa Razgui has been, until this incident, either cavalier or ignorant as to customs and the importation of plant or vegetable matter.

    He would have had the same or very similar problem driving or flying in to California from another State within the United States, and unless he had bothered to somehow obtain a certificate that the already fabricated flutes were instruments, and had passed some test to not be subject to those regulations, he might have had the flutes confiscated as well.

    California produces a staggeringly high percentage of all the vegetable produce consumed throughout America, somewhere near, I think it is, 80%. Importing one pest which may have been in that raw bamboo could have devastated the crops in California, and created both an economic crisis and a huge problem in food supply for all Americans.

    The same reasoning is behind the international customs policies on plants and plant matter.

    While I am sympathetic to his plight, having lost his hand-crafted instruments, for a musician who travels internationally, with those instruments and raw plant matter, he really did not pay attention to or take the proper steps to preserve those items so critical to his career.
    Last edited by PetrB; Jan-16-2014 at 08:25.

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    Senior Member sharik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiegendesLicht View Post
    customs authorities sometimes behave in irrational and crazy ways everywhere - EU, Belarus, Russia
    well, except the latter two where customs seems to be the most liberal and benign, unlike for example Heathrow or US customs notorious for their thuggish methods.

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