Dubai: The UAE had its first taste of rock music in the late 1970s as Glenn Perry's hit single, Welcome to the UAE, blasted over the local airwaves.

"The song was very popular and I was asked to play it at many hotels. The first time I played it was at the Ambassador Hotel," he said.

The Dubai-based musician has contributed his fair share to the community over the years, most notably by setting up a music and dance school and initiating numerous charity drives. Perry opened the Dubai Music School in 1980 at Al Nasser Square (now known as Baniyas Square) in Deira, which was the busiest place in the city in those days.

The school has relocated a few times over the years, and moved from a villa in Jumeirah before settling down in Karama.

"Jumeirah used to be gorgeous and there was sand everywhere. It was very quiet and you could look at Bur Dubai while standing from there. I still miss the old days. Now Shaikh Zayed Road looks like a mini-Manhattan. Karama was quite deserted too, and there weren't any buildings around except for the Lifco Supermarket."

Perry, from Goa, vividly remembers arriving in Dubai 32 years ago because the first edition of Gulf News was published two years later. He says he still reads the newspaper after all these years and has fondly pasted the newspaper's articles that featured him around the walls of the Dubai Music School.

His rock band, Xplosion, played cover songs in the early 1980s, and he still remembers their first gig that was held at the Hyatt Regency. "When I got my first band together we would play at the Dubai Marine Hotel, which is now called the Ascot Hotel," he said.

"There was a nice rock scene in those days and we performed at popular local festivals on the beach, which was nice because it had a mini-Woodstock feeling."

After playing with the band for two years, Perry eventually tired of playing at hotels and singing cover songs and desperately wanted to compose his own songs.

Perry started playing the guitar when he was two years old when he started fiddling with the strings.

"I taught myself and I had my first concert when I was four years old in my home country, India."

He reached the high note of his career when he recorded his first album in Los Angeles in 1988 where he lived for more than a decade. When Perry released his first album Paradize, Gulf News featured him in the tabloid section.

Despite all his wealth and fame, Perry was willing to give it all up after the death of his father.

"I lost a great friend and I realised what pain is. His death made me want to give myself to the people. I had a great career and two world tours going on, and I gave it all up. Money's not important to me, and because of my mother's religious upbringing she inspired me to get involved in charity work."

Perry dedicates his time to aiding various charity drives around the globe and also plans to expand the music school so children across the UAE can have the opportunity to build on their talent. He also donates clothes to African countries as part of his charity work. He has helped raise funds for tsunami victims, Hurricane Katrina victims, World Peace Day and Indonesian earthquake victims.

The Dubai Music School currently caters to 400 children and it plans to open new branches in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

"It is time for all children in the community to benefit from music. I do my best to help the talented students get record deals with companies, which is done by promoting their skills through student concerts. When I was growing up, I didn't have these opportunities and so now I want to help build and promote the locally talented children."