DJ Lito remembered: Local rock champion with a heart of gold

Tributes pour in for DJ Lito, who died in a traffic accident in Cospicua last week 

The death of 47-year-old Manuel Micallef, better known as DJ Lito, shocked the nation due to its abruptness, when he was involved in a traffic collision in Cospicua, which overturned the car, killing him on the spot.

For many, DJ Lito will always be remembered as a champion of the local rock scene, indeed some might even call him synonymous with the scene he cared about so dearly, but those who know him better, will no doubt remember his tendency to go against the grain, sometimes wading straight into controversy, however unwittingly.

“You could almost always depend on him to not run with the herd. So whenever I hear his name I think of someone with a different point of view from whatever else most people are thinking about,” podcaster and former radio presenter Toni Sant told MaltaToday.

Indeed his outspoken personality landed him in hot water some months ago when he made some inappropriate comments on social media, after a supercar careened into spectators at a charity car show ‘Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina’ injuring a number of them grievously, last October. The comments ultimately led to his dismissal from Radio 101, where he had had a long-running rock show.

Asked whether the comments risked tainting his memory, Radju Malta 2 producer Ray Bajada pointed out that the comment had amounted to a “silly comment”, which ultimately didn’t reflect any ill wishes or negative aspect of his personality.

“I have only seen shock, sadness and deep respect shown during these last few days. Personally I can say it definitely did not... He was a rare diamond, albeit uncut and rough, still a diamond,” Bajada said, adding that the brightness of his personality had ultimately “outshone any dimming that an uncouth public comment might have evoked.”

Similarly, Sant pointed out that social media users and the national media had all shown respect to the DJ, noting that people had even set up a Facebook page in his memory.

“If Lito ever became a household name it was through this notorious happening, but it was an integral part of the real Lito… He never had a public persona really. He was in his public life as he was in private life,” he said, describing his sometimes black humour.

Sant, who has known Lito since they were both teenagers, in the same rock circles, went on to describe Lito as a “joker and prankster with a heart of gold”.

“My fondest memories of Lito come from his support for the M3P Foundation. He was very enthusiastic about the preservation of intangible heritage relating to the local rock scene and it was in this spirit that he chased me every year for almost the past decade to promote my annual Mużika Mod Ieħor Listeners’ Picks poll, which he saw as a truly democratic and representative barometer of the year’s music releases.”

Bajada, who does not have such a long history with Lito, explained that he however had a deep respect for him, for being one of the first to strive in giving local band musicians an identity and a voice.

“Everybody I know who knows Lito, loved him and respected him, for he was real, and although we did not share the same circles, it was always a pleasure to meet him,” Bajada added.

True to their words, a tribute concert will be held for the DJ towards the end of June, with funds collected at the event going to the Community Chest Fund, the charity behind the aforementioned Paqpaqli crash. The fact has escaped Sant’s notice, who said it was rather ironic that the concert would benefit the Community Chest Fund, given Lito’s “substantial reservations about the charity”.

“I’m sure that if he could have his say on the beneficiaries of this tribute concert he would certainly not pick the Community Chest Fund, but instead one of the various Cottonera-based initiatives, such as Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl, which was quite close to his heart.”