Baba Karam is a humorous early 20th-century urban dance in imitation of the jâhels, a macho gangster-like working-class character that holds a special place in the heart of Iranians. A popular request at social and celebratory gatherings, Baba Karam may be performed by women in drag sporting a fedora or is a great addition to a belly dance set for a Persian audience. A fedora-style hat and a man’s neck scarf are requisite props for this dance. Fake mustaches are optional!
Baba Karam, or Jaheli dance, is a popular Iranian character dance portraying a low-class urban tough guy. Members of this subculture have been known to frequent cafes, gamble, drink alcohol, and fall in love with “disreputable women” (i.e. entertainers). Despite being rough around the edges, they adhere to a strict code of honor and altruism.
The dance is an endearingly playful display of machismo. The fedora and typical slacks and button-up shirt is a modern adaptation, as the character has been around in early films and literature going back to the Qajar era, with cultural roots that go back even further. The jahelis are associated with the zurkhāneh, or “house of strength”, a uniquely Iranian gym for men that combines athletic training with spiritual principles to cultivate both inner and outer strength, humility, and chivalry.
If you want to learn more about Jaheli dance, the dancer Lida wrote a nice article on her blog here: http://www.lidabellydance.com/baba-karam-dance