This dissertation examines the stylistic, aesthetic, symbolic, and political contours of a distinct African popular music. South African jazz. Against the shifting and contested terrain of South African race relations, in which notions of ''non-racial ism" have acquired highly specific meanings, I highlight and theorize the ways in which racial categories have been interrogated, resisted, and rearticulated in the artistic practice of local jazz musicians and in commentary surrounding their work. Drawing on archival, discographic, and oral-historical research combined with ethnomusicological, performance-oriented, and sociological methods, I explore the particular perspective that this music offers on contemporary South African cultural transformation. This entails approaching ideologies like apartheid as cultural as well as political systems, and foregrounds the capacity of music to serve as a repository of social memory, as a resource in the forging of social identity, and as a vehicle of the political imagination.