Boujemaa Razgui, a flute virtuoso who lives in New York City, says customs officials at JFK Airport destroyed 11 of his instruments.
Razgui, a Canadian citizen with a green card employment permit, was arriving from his home in Marrakech, Morocco.
He said his baggage was opened by officials who said that his instruments were “agricultural products” and “had to be destroyed.”
“I told them I had these instruments for many years and flew with them in and out,” he told the Arts Journal.
“There was nothing I could do,” he added. “The ney flute can be made with bamboo. Is that agricultural?”
Razgui made all of is instruments.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, bamboo that “is not thoroughly dried and is therefore still capable of propagation is prohibited entry into the United States.”
Additionally, “Bamboo that is thoroughly dried and split or cut lengthwise (rendering it incapable of propagation) will be inspected upon entry and released.”
Musical instruments aren’t mentioned.
Customs officials didn’t respond to media outlets that sought comment on the story.
Razgui told the Boston Globe that “They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.”
“This is horrible,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. I’ve never written letters to people.”
He said that there are only about 15 people in the United States who play instruments like the ones he had.
“And now they’re gone,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do.”
He later wrote in the Arts Journal:
“I have such great memories with these nays through the past years, from culture to any moment that I remember.
“Of course l will not hurt any body with nays. They were my huge art connection with North America and Europe, through churches, synagogues (all of them in Montreal and almost all in Toronto), universities, colleges, theaters, com.centers , mosques, all kind of ceremonies, marriages, helulas , barMetzvahs, you name it.”