U.S. Customs seizes and destroys flutes hand-made by celebrated flutist

flutistsCanadian flutist Boujemaa Razgui, who is also a member of Portland’s Al Andalus Ensemble, said that last month, TSA officials in New York confiscated his hand-made flutes and destroyed them.

According to a spokesman for U.S. Customs, the flutes were made from fresh bamboo which is prohibited, then went on to add, “The fresh bamboo canes were seized and destroyed in accordance with established protocols to prevent the introduction of plant pathogens.”

It was in New York where an official opened Razgui’s luggage and found 13 instruments (11 neys and two kawalas), which Razgui made using reeds that are difficult to find. Razgui was not present when the bags were opened. Officials reportedly said the flutes were “an agriculture item.”

Razgui has performed all over the world for over three decades and recorded with Beyonce, Shakira and Cirque du Soleil. He also regularly performs with the Boston Camarata. This is the first time his flutes raised concern with any officials.

It was not enough that he had to lose his valuable instruments, but it was reported Razgui said he was treated very poorly by U.S. Customs officials, who questioned him for hours, then photographed and fingerprinted him without cause. When learning what happened to his instruments, Razgui was reduced to tears.

Because neys are difficult to purchase, most ney players make the instruments on their own. Razgui described the care he took in making the instruments, oiling them and over time, the sound from the instruments improve more and more. Without his instruments, his livelihood is compromised. He is quoted as saying, “I don’t know what I am going to do now.”

What happened to Razgui should not happen to anyone. Just as the public is mortified when federal officials force senior citizens in wheelchairs to undress or prove their prosthetic devices are ‘authentic,’ it should alarm us all when the personal property of someone is sifted through and discarded due to the arrogance and ineptitude of those interpreting laws – and those creating them as well.

A man’s livelihood is now affected, and it appears there will be no compensation distributed to him for his losses.