Destroyed by customs? or stolen? Whatever happened, the flutes are gone: Deceptive Cadence: NPR


Flautist Boujemaa Razgui and his colleagues from the Al Andalus ensemble.

Courtesy of the artists

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Courtesy of the artists

Flautist Boujemaa Razgui and his colleagues from the Al Andalus ensemble.

Courtesy of the artists

A case causing intense outrage in the classical music community and starting to gain momentum in the mainstream press is becoming more and more mysterious by the day.

On New Years Eve, the popular classical music blog Slipped Disc, written by London-based Norman Lebrecht, published a story with an incendiary title ready to arouse the fury of musicians and everyday travelers: “Indignation at JFK while customs officers smash a musician’s instruments. The details reported by Lebrecht were sketchy (and many of the facts then repeated in the mainstream media were simply false). But it seemed that flautist Boujemaa Razgui had endured a traveller’s worst nightmare: his most precious possessions had disappeared in transit.

Razgui is an accomplished artist who performs regularly with a wide variety of colleagues. Play Middle Eastern flutes called ney and kawala, he has appeared on pieces by Beyonce and Shakira and for Cirque du Soleil, as well as with early music ensembles including Al Andalus and the Boston Camerata. Razgui makes all of his own flutes and says their value lies not so much in the materials as in the time he invests in making and maintaining them, with each flute being suited to different types of musical styles and circumstances. “I devote about two years to it”, explains the musician, who also sings and plays instruments like the violin and the oud. “This is what cannot be replaced.”

Razgui, a Canadian artist of Moroccan descent who now lives in Brockton, Mass., Was traveling from Marrakech to Boston on an exhausting four-part route that began on December 21. He left his hometown of Marrakech and flew to Madrid. He then took American Airlines flight 0095 from Madrid to New York, arriving around 1 p.m. on December 22, and eventually flew from New York to Boston for the last leg of his late-afternoon trip. midday. In accordance with US regulations, he attempted to collect his luggage to clear customs at JFK in the early afternoon of December 22 before taking the last flight of his trip a few hours later. He says his bag, however, never made it to the JFK baggage carousel.

Razgui says he spent two hours retrieving the luggage and filed a missing bag report with American. At that point, the musician said, “American told me to go home to Massachusetts as I planned, and they would deliver the bag when they found it.”

However, what Razgui received at his home a day after returning to the United States was far different from what he expected. He originally packed professional-grade clothing, personal items, and bamboo canes to make new flutes. And at the top of the canes he had packed a special case containing 13 finished instruments that he had made himself – 11 ny and two other Middle Eastern flutes called kawalas.

Razgui says that when American delivered their luggage on December 23, “the bag was empty except for a few clothes.” He was also informed that the “agricultural equipment” contained in his bag had been seized and destroyed by customs. And the 13 flutes he had packed on the canes were completely missing.

A spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection said yesterday in an email exchange with NPR Music that no instrument was involved in the agency’s actions, “just fresh bamboo seized that was found by CBP agricultural specialists “. (US law states that these fresh plants are prohibited from entering the country to prevent the spread of plant pathogens.) According to the customs official, the only materials seized were “fresh green bamboo canes from about three to four feet long inside unclaimed baggage. ”So what happened to those streamers?

A spokesperson for American Airlines said last night that the carrier was not aware of the incident until we contacted the airline, but noted that once the baggage is unloaded, the responsibility shifts to customs. Razgui says he has not tried to contact American Airlines himself since the carrier delivered the bag because he believed customs destroyed his instruments as well as the bamboo canes.

After a day of talking to the international press, an anguished Razgui says he doesn’t know what to think about the whole situation. “Maybe someone took the flutes,” he said. “I really don’t know what’s going on.” In the meantime, however, he missed out on gigs – and borrowed a cheap ney one of his students.


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