Becoming comfortable in his own skin was a process for Mike Hind. A lover of people, but not of crowds, Bermuda’s emerging ukulele star has overcome a natural shyness to become one of the island’s most popular entertainers—and a much-sought-after artist overseas, too.
In Bermuda, he can be found four nights a week at The Dock at Waterlot Inn, playing his eight-string ukulele and singing to a mix of tourists and residents. Delivering an eclectic set of music drawn from his repertoire of some 300 songs, Hind’s self-deprecating charm, genuine warmth and keen sense of comedic timing combine with his considerable musical ability to make for a great night out.
The 46-year-old Hind, who has been married to Christine since 1998, has become a hit overseas as well. He kicked off 2015 with a mid-January trip to Illinois, where he performed with Mim’s Ukes Travelling Ukulele Sideshow. Then it was on to Anaheim, California, where San Francisco-based Moku Ukulele unveiled the “Mike Hind Signature Series” eight-string instrument that is expected to be put into production later this year. Hind is an endorsed artist with Moku, while Mim’s Ukes first sponsored him.
Hind toured the UK in February, and in May performed at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield, England, where he visited John Smith’s Stadium, the home ground of Huddersfield FC and Bermudian football star Nahki Wells.
In September, Hind and friend Narciso Lobo will lead a series of workshops and performances at My Big Fat Greek Ukulele Adventure in the Greek islands, while in October he will headline the Grand Southern Ukulele Festival in Portsmouth, England—and November sees him off to the Tampa Bay Ukulele Getaway.
Hind’s trip to the Tampa event in 2012 as an attendee was a turning point. “I realised that if I wanted to, I could,” he says of forging a career with the ukulele.
October’s trip to Portsmouth will have special meaning because Hind’s grandfather, Percy Hind, led an orchestra there and his father, Dusty, was involved in repertory theatre in the south coast city. “We are playing at the King’s Theatre,” Hind says. “That will be cool because I will be performing on the same stage as my dad did while he was there as a young man, which is awesome.”
Also this year, Hind appeared on the cover of UKE, the British magazine edited by Matt Warnes of Feckless and Fuddle ukulele fame (he’s Fuddle, by the way)—and earned his first Best of Bermuda Gold Award in the “Musician” category from this magazine.
Not bad for a guy who dropped out of Warwick Academy at the age of 16. “When I dropped out, I was in a pretty bad place in my head,” he says. “But I went to get my GED at the Adult Education Centre and [the centre’s founder] Meryl Swan Williams is one of the people who saved my life. She met me, and within 10 minutes said, ‘You’re fine’—and then she spent the next seven or eight months reinforcing the fact that I was alright. She always made me feel like I was a sane person. Of course, my parents (Dusty and Nancy) tried to tell me that, too, but when you’re 16 you don’t believe anything that they say.”
A foray to boarding school in Maine followed—he flunked out—before Hind spent nine months as a stable hand in Ottawa, Canada, while visiting his equestrian brother Pete. Back to the island, and after a succession of short-tenure jobs—six months with sculptor Desmond Fountain, working at Trimingham’s in the display department and in the warehouse, and then six months at the clothing store GQ—he began to find his groove. 
“On the day that I quit my job at GQ, I ran into Peter Petty who had just set up Bermuda Comedy Club with the guys from Yuk Yuk’s,” he recalls. “He asked me if I wanted to be a waiter. I said, ‘No, but I need the money.’ Three months later, they told me that they liked me, but that I was the worst waiter in the world. They asked me to run their karaoke bar. I did that for five years. That means I can do anything in life and not go to hell because I have already lived it.”
Hind handled sound and lights for Oasis Club’s house band, the Kennel Boys, for 10 years. “They very kindly let me sing from 2:30–3:30 a.m. when the place was jamming,” he says. “I felt like a rock star for most of the ‘90s. It was amazing.”
Later, Hind was co-owner and lead designer for, ran his own web design firm before closing it in September 2001—and produced Bermuda’s first daily comic strip, “My Kind of Island.”
Since April 2002, Hind has worked at Crisson & Hind African Gallery with his father. Five years ago, the effects of the economic downturn led to a temporary break in that working relationship. It was during that time that Hind turned his hand to the ukulele. “The week before my 41st birthday, I went to Bermuda Music Centre, saw that they had a ukulele on the wall—and I just thought, ‘I think I’m gonna,’” he says. “I had always wanted to play the ukulele. Barbara Cooper, who was a dear family friend, played and I remember as a kid just being rapt. I love the look of the ukulele, I love the sound of the ukulele—and it’s the only instrument that ever stuck with me.
“At that time, I just thought, ‘Why not go for it … why not try to do this for a living?’ I spent four months taking all that I had learned over the last 20 years and turning it into something that I can do on stage. I have played drums, bass and guitar—but they all seemed like work. But when you see someone playing the ukulele, they always look as happy as they can possibly be.”
Dismissed by some as a novelty, the ukulele has its roots in Madeira—and is widely associated with Hawaii. George Formby, once among the world’s most popular entertainers, played the ukulele. Tiny Tim had a big hit with “Tip Toe through the Tulips,” while today The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and Jake Shimabukuro (you really must see his version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on YouTube) are among the leading artists.
“The ukulele became a songwriter’s tool,” Hind says. “You can pick one up, play chords and get a good feel for the progression of a song very quickly and very easily. You can also take a ukulele to a park and write a song. I can teach you how to play a song on the ukulele in about four seconds. The initial learning curve is quite simple. Within three days, I was happily playing songs—not well, but I was making music. As it got harder, I got more into the challenge of playing the instrument well, and I got pleasure from that challenge.”
His first gig, at Bermuda Bistro at the Beach, “went shockingly well,” Hind says. Aside from club gigs, he has MC’d the Bermuda Peace Day Concert, has entertained at private parties—and has been playing at The Dock since August 2012.
“The other thing about the ukulele is the community,” Hind says. “I have made closer friends out of playing this silly little instrument than anything else I’ve ever done. There are a group of us who are trying to build this into something bigger than a fad. We’re trying to be singer-songwriters that just happen to play the ukulele. We want it to become an instrument rather than a quirky little novelty thing.”
Hind says he is still coming to grips with his success. “I am making a better living at this than at anything else that I have done in my life,” he says. “It still freaks me out because I still think of myself as a guy who is barely busking.
“But the Gold Award from The Bermudian, the tours, everything really, that’s just where my career is right now. I came into it with 20 years’ experience—singing in bands, doing stand-up comedy, theatre with Gilbert and Sullivan and with Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society, all the mar
keting stuff that has come in handy, much of it with my dad. I think of myself as a beginner, but while I have only been playing the ukulele for five years, I have been doing this job for almost 25 years.
“Someone once described my act as half ‘short-attention-span theatre’ and half ‘Is he okay? I am a little worried about him.’ I think that I am actually quite introverted. I am more than happy sitting at home alone, and it can be an effort to get out there and be social. I love hanging out with people, but I think I am actually a bit shy. I’m an extroverted introvert.
“My entire adult life has led me to this moment. It’s kind of gratifying after a misspent adulthood. I’m pretty chuffed. Mornings are not my favourite time—but when I do wake up, I just say, ‘Yes, this is going to be a good’n’—and every day is.”